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Huawei CFO lawyer argues examination by border agents was not legitimate

VANCOUVER, March 18 (Reuters) - A lawyer representing Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou told a Canadian court on Thursday that border agents who questioned her at the airport were “untruthful” when they said they handed over Meng’s phone passcodes to police by accident.

In the last phase of arguments leading to a final hearing of Meng’s extradition case, defence lawyer Tony Paisana told a British Columbia Supreme Court judge the agents abused their statutory powers, and would not have acted as they did if they were conducting a “bona fide” border exam.

He asked why the agents took Meng’s electronic devices but did not search them, and why they asked for passcodes when they knew they would not use them.

The evidence suggested that the information was collected for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Paisana said.

“(Otherwise) why would you need the passcodes? For what purpose?” he asked.

Meng, who was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in 2018 on a U.S. warrant for bank fraud, is accused of misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran, causing the bank to break with U.S. sanctions.

Meng, 49, and Huawei maintain she is innocent. For more than two years she has been fighting extradition to the United States while under house arrest in Vancouver.

Diplomatic relations between China and Canada have soured over the issue. China detained two Canadians soon after Meng’s arrest and they will face trial starting this week, ramping up the tension between the two countries.

Meng’s legal team is arguing that abuses of process took place during her arrest and that her rights were violated.

Canadian prosecutors have said Meng’s arrest followed established procedures.

On Wednesday, Paisana said Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers who appeared as witnesses last year provided “less than truthful” testimony when confronted with alleged abuses of process.

He said RCMP Constable Winston Yep gave testimony “bordering on the absurd” when defending his decision to allow border agents to question Meng before her arrest by police.

RCMP declined to comment.

Meng’s extradition is expected to wrap up in May, though any decision could be appealed which would delay the final outcome. (Reporting by Sarah Berman in Vancouver Editing by Denny Thomas and Sonya Hepinstall)

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